Other states have banned single-use plastic bags, but New Jersey is going further. On Thursday, the Legislature approved a measure prohibiting the use of single-use paper bags in supermarkets, as well as single-use plastic bags in stores and restaurants. The bill also outlaws disposable food containers and cups made of polystyrene foam. An aide said Gov. Philip Murphy will sign the legislation, the New York Times reports. "This bill will significantly reduce the harm that these products cause to our environment," the aide said. The director of the state's Sierra Club called it "probably the strongest, most comprehensive" such legislation in the nation. "It will go a long way in our battle with plastic pollution," Jeff Tittel said. There would be an 18-month grace period before the new rules take effect.
The ban will apply to plastic straws, too, per NJ.com. It lists exceptions for bags used to wrap raw meat or fish, and laundry, newspaper, and produce bags. The New Jersey Food Council, a trade group of food suppliers and retailers, supported the move, saying dealing with a patchwork of municiple regulations would be more difficult. Not all industry groups agree. The executive director of the state's Chemistry Council said businesses will be hurt. Any restaurants that survive the pandemic shutdown will already be struggling, Dennis Hart said. "All this bill is going to do is add more burden of cost for a less quality product." It can take centuries for plastic bags, which account for about 12% of the nation's plastic waste, to decompose. (Australia's move away from plastic bags angered customers.)